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Dr K K Aggarwal

What are the Principles of Vidur Niti?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The best description of the causes and treatment of insomnia comes from Vidura Niti a dialogue between Vidura and Dhritarashtra.

In the text, King Dhritarashtra said: “O Vidura, Sanjaya has come back. He has gone away after rebuking me. Tomorrow he will deliver, in the midst of the court, Ajatashatru’s message. I have not been able today to ascertain what the message is of the Kuru hero. Therefore, my body is burning, and that has produced sleeplessness. Tell us what may be good for a person that is sleepless and burning.

“My body is burning, and that has produced sleeplessness” is a typical description of anxiety and related sleeplessness, true even today.

Vidura said: “Sleeplessness overtakes thief, a lustful person, him that has lost all his wealth, him that has failed to achieve success, and him also that is weak and has been attacked by a strong person”.

He therefore described five basic reasons for insomnia and even in today’s science they are true. No new cause has been added in this list of stress induced insomnia.

The situations are:

  1. A thief
  2. A lustful person
  3. A person who has lost all his wealth
  4. A person who has failed to achieve success
  5. A person who is weak and has been attacked by a strong person.

Ayurveda describes sleep as an aggravation of Vata and Pitta dosha. The number one cause of the same is mental tension; suppressed feelings and acute bitterness. The above five situations again hold true to this effect.

Apart in Allopathy other causes of insomnia mentioned are constipation; dyspepsia; excessive intake of tea, coffee and alcohol and environment Factors-excessive cold, heat or change of environment. They are in most of the situations the effect and not the cause of insomnia.

The treatment of insomnia involves either suppressing the emotions with drugs or root level eradication of stress with proper counseling. Bhagavad Gita, Chanakya Niti and Vidur Niti are high level counseling books of ancient era and provide texts and sutras even true today.

Bhagavad Gita was a counseling when Arjuna went in an acute anxiety state and was not being able to decide whether or not he should fight with his near ones. He said: my legs are trembling, my bows are leaving me, by body is shaking, what should I do”. The principles of Gita today are incorporated as the principles of any counseling.

Chanakya gave principles of how to manage conflicts and win over others. One of his main teachings was that money earned by unfair means can only last for eight years.

Another answer to insomnia is learning meditation as described in Patanjali Yoga Sutra or Yoga Vashistha. It is based on the principle of concentrating on the present, which shifts the inner environment from sympathetic to para sympathetic mode. 20 minutes of meditation morning and evening provides the same biochemical benefit as gathered from 7 hours of deep sleep.

Here are some other sutras of Vidura Niti:

  1. Do not inhabit a country where you are not respected, cannot earn your livelihood, have no friends, or cannot acquire knowledge. (1.8)
  2. Do not reveal what you have thought upon doing, but by wise counsel keep it secret, being determined to carry it into execution. (2.7)
  3. Consider again and again the following: the right time, the right friends, the right place, the right means of income, the right ways of spending, and from whom you derive your power. (4.18)
  4. A wise man should not reveal his loss of wealth, the vexation of his mind, the misconduct of his own wife, base words spoken by others, and disgrace that has befallen him. (7.1)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

To be in harmony with the body (five elements represented by Draupadi) one must acquire five qualities or in other terms living a focused life, full of strength and not getting disturbed with loss or gain and finally working for the welfare of the society without having any partiality towards anyone.
1. Balanced mind : Yudhishter (“sthir’ or balanced in “ yudh or disturbed state of mind)
2. Focused vision ( Arjuna)
3. Using internal power or strength ( Bhima)
4. Not being partial or remaining neutral (Nakul).
5. Working for the welfare of the society ( Sahdev)

With this one can kill hundred negative qualities a person can have (hundred kauravs). The hundred negative qualities are acquired because of cunningness (shakuni), not working with the eyes of the soul (Dhritarashtra) and keeping a blind eye to any wrong happening (Gandhari).
The main negative qualities are taking decisions in day to day life situations (Duryodhana: dusht in yudha or war) and choosing wrong choices as a ruler (dusshasana: dusht and shasan).
The positive qualities once acquired will also win over other negative qualities like blind faith or undue attachments (bhishma pitamaha); unrighteous loyalty (dronacharya) and unrighteous ego ( Karna) .

The description of horses comes in Ashwamedha Yagna, Dashrath in Ramayana, The Bhagavad Gita with Krishna riding a Rath and Kathoupanishad describing the meaning of a chariot.

 In scientific terms horses represents our senses which needs to be controlled.

Most Upanishad and Vedic seers, talk of the horse and not any other animal as the symbol of sacrifice. Horses are known for their speed, dynamism, faithfulness and devotion.  For realization, speed, dynamism, faithfulness and devotedness all are necessary. But horses are also known for their chanchalta or the quality to get out of control if not tightened. (bidakna)

One needs to sacrifice the internal uncontrolled horses and keep the internal horses under control so that we can acquire the divine qualities of horses.

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad starts with the description of the sacrificial horse used in the ashwamedha sacrifice. It means that no spiritual Yagna is complete unless we learn to control our senses.

Kathoupanishad (1.3.4-7) Talks about the importance of controlling the mind and the senses.  It describes the body as the chariot; the Self is its master; intellect is the charioteer, the mind as the reins, the senses as the horses and the sense-objects as the paths.

Number of horses also have different depictions: five in kathoupanishad (five senses motor or sensory); ten in Ramayana (Dashrath, who has a control, over his ten senses), seven in Lord Sun (Sapta-vaahanah — “One Who has the vehicle of seven horses.” Lord Sun, representing control over the mind all seven days of the week)

The imagery associated with the Bhagavad Gita is that of a chariot with four or five white horses. Arjuna is inside the chariot and the chariot is being driven by Lord Krishna. Here the human body represents the chariot, Arjun the individual soul and Krishna the Spirit or the Supreme Soul. That chariot has three wheels (Satwa, Rajas, and Tamas); has three kinds of motion (upwards or downwards or transversely, implying superior, inferior, and intermediate birth as brought about by acts); four horses apart from senses also represent the time, predestiny, will of the deities, and one’s own will. It has three naves (white, black, and mixed, implying good acts, evil acts and acts that are of a mixed character).

Vidur also talked about the same in vidur niti. He said to Dhritarashtra that O king, man’s body is just like a Ratha (chariot), intelligence (Buddhi) like a charioteer (Saarathi) and senses are its horses. One, who controls all these three, travels happily in this world, just like the charioteer who has controlled the horses of the chariot)